Obama: Congress must act on immigration right away

The president outlined his proposals for immigration reform in a speech Tuesday

Topics: Immigration Reform, Undocumented immigrants, Barack Obama, U.S. Senate, Borders,

Obama: Congress must act on immigration right away (Credit: White House)

President Obama said that if Congress fails to act on immigration reform, he will send up his own version of a bill and “insist that they vote on it right away.”

Speaking in Las Vegas, Obama said that it is “very encouraging” that a bipartisan group of senators put forward a framework for immigration reform, and that it shows a “desire to get this done.” But, he added, “action must follow. We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate.”

He continued that his main proposals have, in the past, been backed by both John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush, showing that “the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place.” But, if Congress doesn’t act, “I will send up a bill based on my proposal, and insist that they vote on it right away,” Obama said.

The president outlined three major components of his legislation, including a focus on enforcement and border security, dealing with the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country, and modernizing the legal immigration system.

“For comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship,” Obama said, saying that the pathway will include passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then “going to the back of the line behind all the folks that are here legally.”

“It won’t be a quick process, but it will be a fair process,” he added.

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In the fact sheet on Obama’s immigration proposals, the White House also emphasizes keeping same-sex binational couples together as part of the process to streamline the existing legal immigration program: “It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.”

Obama continued in his remarks that when it comes to talking about immigration reform, “It’s easy for the discussion to take on an air of us versus them,” but “we forget that most of us used be them.”

“Unless you were one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. Somebody brought you,” he said.

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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